Who doesn’t want cheaper flights?! Airfare is often the biggest expense of a trip, and probably the number one reason why so many people simply can’t afford going for wonderful trips.
It will always feel too expensive, but there are still some hacks you can use to find the cheapest flights possible, and sometimes come across really good deals that make a trip possible!
If you check out my flight diary you will see that I have been flying for quite a few years now, and with time I became more skilled to search for cheaper flights. Here are 10 little tricks I personally use when booking flights to my next adventure:
Cheaper Flight Hack #1 – Fly off season
If you are flexible with your travelling time, you should obviously avoid the peak season. More demand means higher prices.
That said, peak season often means glorious weather at your destination, and it might not be worth spending a holiday under the rain just to save on airfare.
A good compromise would be the shoulder seasons, a little before or a little after the peak season.
However, off-peak season doesn’t always mean bad weather! It obviously depends on where you are going, do your research! In any case, the more off-season you go the cheaper.
Cheaper Flight Hack #2 – Date flexibility
When I search for flights, most of the time I use price comparators like Kayak or Skyscanner. I always use the +/- 3 days option for the dates. This way, the site shows the prices for 3 days before and 3 after the departure date I selected; and 3 days before and 3 days after the return date I selected.
I have regularly seen prices double from a day to another. With this option enabled, you have a good overview of the prices fluctuations around the dates you are interested in.
Flights tend to be cheaper on Tuesdays, and Sundays tend to be the most expensive.
Cheaper Flight Hack #3 – Sacrifice sleep
Most of the time, very early or very late flights are cheaper, which is logical since there is less demand.
Everybody wants their comfortable and convenient timing, and they pay a higher price for it.
Cheaper Flight Hack #4 – Try your luck with one way flights
Sometimes, a return flight is more expensive than two one way flights.
Therefore, it is always a good idea to search for one way tickets. By combining deals from two different companies, you can sometimes fly for a cheaper price.
For example, let’s say you are travelling in Europe and want a return flight from Paris to Madrid. You may find quite cheap flights with EasyJet, but maybe it would be even cheaper to buy Paris-Madrid with EasyJet and Madrid-Paris with Vueling.
It often pays to search for many options like this. This is how you find some gems!
Cheaper Flight Hack #5 – Layovers
For long distance travel, connecting flights are cheaper than direct flights. But we can take this even further.
When you look at the results of your flight search, you may notice that the stopovers are often in the same cities or the same region. For example if you fly from London to Sydney, you will mostly likely stop in an Asian city like Hong Kong or Singapore.
Once you have noticed that, it can be interesting to search for two separate flights – London to Singapore, and Singapore to Sydney. Sometimes the sum of these two flights will be cheaper than the previous options.
But be careful! If you do this, don’t leave just a few hours between the two flights. It would be risky. If one of your flights’ timing gets modified or arrives late, you could miss the other flight.
This should be seen as an opportunity to say a couple days in the city (in this example, Hong Kong or Singapore), and add this bonus visit to your trip.
Cheaper Flight Hack #6 – Airport flexibility
It sometimes pays to be flexible with airports. If you are flying to New York City, the logical airport is JFK. But who knows, maybe there are cheaper options to Newark.
If you are going for a reasonably long independent trip, you could go even further. Let’s say you want to travel to Malaysia. You will logically search flights to Kuala Lumpur. But you never know, maybe you can find a good deal to Singapore! Singapore is only 5 hours away from Kuala Lumpur by bus. And just like for the previous point, you get to see Singapore on top of Malaysia.
There are many places like these in the world, with two or several international airports easily linked by local transport; it’s worth considering these options.
Cheaper Flight Hack #7 – Use private browsing
If you use private browsing or “incognito mode” on Google Chrome, cookies won’t be saved on your computer and the site will not “recognize” you.
Officially, the system adjusts the prices constantly and your flight search history has nothing to do with it. A few people however have experimented flight searches with and without private browsing, and saw big price differences. Was it the direct result of their previous flight searches, or pure coincidence? Difficult to say, but this is more and more considered to be a myth.
To be on the safe side, it doesn’t hurt switching to private browsing anyway!
To go incognito, press CTRL or CMD+SHIFT+N on Google Chrome.
Cheaper Flight Hack #8 – When to book long haul flights
That’s a question we all have asked ourselves at some point: when should we book our flight? Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to this. It depends on which part of the world you are visiting, and it varies year after year.
These days, the sweet spot seems to be at around 3 months before the trip.
Be careful, don’t book too early! People who book their flights very early (like 6 months in advance or more) usually go for a special occasion like a honeymoon for example, or have specific, fixed dates for their trip. They will book the trip no matter the price. Airlines know that and increase the prices of their flights.
I don’t recommend relying on last minute flights either; it is not as good as before and often concerns unusual city pairs.
Cheaper Flight Hack #9 – When to book budget flights
If you intend to book a flight with a budget airline, then the sooner your book the better. Low cost airlines function differently, and usually their cheaper seats are sold first, with the most expensive ones remaining at the end.
Cheaper Flight Hack #10 – Luggage
Sometimes when we travel for a short distance, we immediately search for low cost flights, without even looking at traditional airlines.
Keep in mind that budget airlines may offer really cheap fights but will make you pay for any checked luggage. If possible, try to squeeze everything you need in your carry-on luggage to avoid that extra cost. Knowing how to pack light can save you a lot of money!
If you can’t, then it might be worth comparing with flights offered by traditional airlines. They also offer nice deals from time to time, and checked luggage will be included in the price.
There you go! These are the things I pay attention to when searching for flights. And I do often find good deals! That’s how I can afford to travel a lot.
You may have noticed that I didn’t talk at all about rewards and membership programs because it probably deserves a dedicated article, but they can be a great way to save money if you travel a lot.
Not all hacks listed here will work all the time but they are worth trying when doing your flight search.
Bon voyage !